SACO — Make no mistake: Thornton Academy is the team to beat in Class A football.

The Trojans made that clear 12 minutes into Saturday’s 84-13 win and then kept emphasizing it against a previously unbeaten Bangor team hoping to show it was ready to step up to contender status.

“They’re the best team we’ve seen, on the field and on film,” said Bangor Coach David Morris.

Thornton, ranked No. 1 in the state in the Varsity Maine poll, led 21-0 after one quarter and then accelerated with six second-quarter touchdowns. Leading 56-7, the Trojans used two timeouts to get the ball back once more before halftime. That turned into Thornton’s ninth TD of the first half, a 15-yard screen pass from Jack Emerson to Isaiah Jones.

“We’re going to play a half,” said Trojans Coach Kevin Kezal. “We haven’t really played much, so we’re going to play at least a half full speed, do a two-minute drill and do some stuff. We want to run plays and we’re going to play hard.

“Great effort by our kids. Awesome, awesome effort. Just really proud of them.”

Thornton (4-0), which will be at rival Bonny Eagle (3-1) on Friday, unleashed a big-play arsenal. Anthony Jones (no relation to Isaiah) returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. Isaiah Jones returned a punt for a score. Three times, Thornton scored on its first play of a possession, and the Trojans had a pair of two-play scoring drives.

Emerson completed 7 of 10 passes in the first half for 165 yards, with three touchdowns.

“We had a great week of practice leading up to this. We wanted to go out there and execute and make ourselves look good,” Emerson said.

Anthony Jones opened the scoring on a 26-yard sweep left behind a wall of blockers, then caught a 47-yard touchdown pass. His first kick return for a score, from 84 yards, pushed the lead to 28-7 and came after Bangor had scored following a bad punt snap that gave the Rams the ball at the 4.

Thornton also scored on a 55-yard punt return by Isaiah Jones, a 21-yard pass to Isaiah Jones, and touchdown runs of 58 and 5 yards by Hayden Whitney and 2 yards by Harry Bunce.

Anthony Jones added another kickoff return TD to start the second half.

“The blocking was incredible. They opened big holes and it came down to speed after that,” Anthony Jones said. “Beat it to the edge and then take it to the house. Coach Kezal tells us all the time that any return teams is just another offensive play. We really emphasize blocking as a team and we do it really well, which makes it easy for guys like me.”

The offensive onslaught was created by Thornton’s fast and hard-hitting defense, which set the tone with three straight three-and-out series to start the game. Bangor’s passing game, which went for over 400 yards in its most recent win over Scarborough, was stymied by aggressive coverage.

“Obviously they’ve thrown for a ton of yardage and scored a ton of points, and our kids had a great week of practice and executed,” Kezal said. “Our kids were locked in and we were trying to take away the four or five things they do really well, and our kids did a great job of doing that.”

Camden Fecteau shut out 6-foot-6 target Landon Clark with sticky man coverage. Isaiah Jones had two interceptions, and Dontae Neal picked off another against senior quarterback Max Clark (6 of 17, 55 yards in the first half).

“Cam’s obviously our No. 1 corner. Cam’s a battler and he’s going to grind every single play, and he played a great game for us. The whole secondary played great,” Kezal said.

Interior linemen Grady Hanscom, Garrick Willey and Matthew Kimball won their battles up front, leading to some fierce tackles by linebackers like Mason Paulin, Bunce and Oskari Tapola (who was also 10 for 10 on point-after kicks). Thornton has had physically bigger defenses, but this team runs to the ball with both passion and purpose.

“It’s gotta be heart. We always go out there and give 100 percent effort and do our best to do our job. Get the three-and-out, and that way the offense can do it’s job and rack up some points,” Paulin said.

Bangor entered the game off to its best start under Morris, who took over the program prior to the 2018 season, and was coming off a significant 37-36 win at Scarborough despite being without 21 players who were in quarantine because of close contact with a positive COVID case within the program.

That win was the first time a Morris-coached team had defeated a top-tier Class A team. Scarborough was among the final four teams in the Class A playoffs from 2016-19 and rolled to a 48-3 quarterfinal win against Bangor in 2019, the first year Class A was a single-division statewide group.

Bangor’s players were released from quarantine on Saturday and were able to make the trip to Thornton.

Morris held a Saturday morning practice to get those players up to speed. He said prior to the game that those players would play against Thornton. When the game was over, Morris agreed that the situation had been taxing for his team, but quickly added it was not why Thornton had won by 71 points.

“They are just faster, bigger and stronger than us right now,” he said.


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